From Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, in response to “DeVos is dangerous for public education” (Dec. 17 Viewpoint):
In her recent op-ed, Kay McSpadden characterizes Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s pick for U.S. Secretary of Education, as unfit and inexperienced. To buttress her view, McSpadden invokes a recent column by Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press, in which he states that DeVos has “no relevant credentials or experience” to lead our nation’s public schools.
In fact, DeVos’s experience is enormously relevant and has enabled her to impact the lives of thousands of children in her home state of Michigan and across the nation. McSpadden and Henderson object to DeVos’s commitment to parental school choice, yet Henderson sends his children to public charter schools in Detroit. These innovative public schools would not be available to Henderson’s family were it not for the pivotal advocacy work of DeVos.
DeVos’s experience is deep and longstanding, as she has championed education reform efforts for decades. She spearheaded the 1993 law authorizing the first charter schools in Michigan and worked to lift her state’s charter school cap in 2011 – ensuring more children could attend better performing schools. DeVos personally supported my leadership and advocacy for school choice here in North Carolina, and I consider her a friend.
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The same year Michigan removed its charter school cap, North Carolina lifted its statewide cap on public charter schools. Since then, charter schools in our state have grown by nearly 70 percent – and we still have tens of thousands of children on charter school wait lists, desperately hoping for seats to open.
Thanks to the work of reformers like DeVos, our choice-rich educational landscape is also affecting traditional public schools for the better. Consider North Carolina’s largest school district, Wake County, which moved recently to shift nearly 20 lower-performing traditional public schools to become charter-like schools. Such a move will not only permit these schools to operate with greater institutional flexibility, but it will also give them freedom to customize education more effectively for the children they are trying to reach. Such a change would never have been implemented in Wake County had leaders like DeVos not laid the foundational groundwork for this kind of education reform.
Wake County children and families will now benefit, as will educators in these schools who will be even more empowered to teach their students with more autonomy. Parental school choice must play a stronger role in creating a more competitive K-12 environment for our nation. Vigorously fighting for states to be empowered to bolster our traditional public schools; expanding public charter schools with reasonable regulatory controls, and offering families private school scholarships who need the most whether due to disability or income pushes all schools in the K-12 system to step up their game.
The nomination of one of the nation’s most successful and tireless advocates for children to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education is a wise one. Betsy DeVos has made it her life’s mission, leveraging time and treasure, to stand up for children and families across our state and country. I am confident that she will be a strong and transformative leader in education for our nation.